[Jesus said] "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment." (Matthew 12:36 NAS)

The Internet is a marvelous thing! It has obvious potential for evil, and we see that daily, but it also offers the greatest opportunity imaginable for sharing information.

One of the things we are learning the hard way is that very few things scattered on to the net ever die. Criminals are regularly convicted by evidence they thought "deleted." Homes are destroyed with the discovery of messages shared between a spouse and an outsider. Children are shocked to find their mother knew how to find what they had been viewing.

The Internet should only be spoken of as a tool. Tools are neither good nor evil. They become one or the other depending on how they are used. A sharp scalpel may save a life in the hands of a surgeon or take one in the hands of a murderer. Whatever we may determine about the value of the Internet, we do know that it is here to stay. Our main choice is to determine how we will use it.

This past week I was searching for an item which I knew included my name. Using the broad search with the name Bill Sherrill, I turned up an endless number of links. After searching about ten pages of references, I gave up on the search for the specific item. However, I was fascinated by the myriad of listings that referred to me personally — most of them referred to me through my writing, but occasionally it was in the writings of others. I found Thought for the Week posted on numerous web sites — some as old as 1990's. A few were on church sites, and one of them was a post from 2004. I know they maintain the site because it had current information as well.

The little bits we say are never lost!
The most unusual posting was one that turned up in Japanese. Several years ago, Motouki Nomoura, a devout brother in Japan, translated a Christmas article entitled "An Ozark Christmas" and it is still floating on a web site in Japanese. I remember when he sent me a "hard copy" of the bulletin in which he first printed it. Fortunately, he had added the title and writer’s name in English, or I would have never known which article was mine. Copies of "Thought" showed up in a Catholic monthly in Jamaica, a Pentecostal magazine claiming "worldwide" circulation that was published in California and a church bulletin in Germany.

What does all this have to do with you? We all need to be reminded that the little bits that we say, write, or do are never lost. Shakespeare's warning is relevant here. He said, "The evil men do lives on, the good too often is interred with their bones." And Shakespeare did not have the Internet! Fortunately, much of the good also survives!

Solomon’s Proverbs are filled with sayings concerning "words." He comments on both the good and the evil. His primary premise is, "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise." (Proverbs 10:19) He then writes of his judgement concerning restraint. "He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding." (Proverbs 17:27) He then defines the two kinds of words we often use. "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (Proverbs 16:24) "A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire." (Proverbs 16:27)

Knowing that your "words," written or spoken, may well last long after you are gone, how should you choose them? With great care I would think! It is frightening enough to know that I will be judged by things I wrote in the past — with some of which even I no longer agree — but to think that I might be remembered by some calloused and angry word, spoken carelessly in haste, should give me greater pause and concern as I choose my words.